by Peter Bell
By early February 2022, some relaxation of the extremely tight U.K. rules was in force. Thus, in the taxi to the airport, the requirement to wear face nappies was – thank heaven – no longer mandatory. In the airport terminal entrance hall, check-in, and security areas, the wearing of masks was strictly enforced; but bizarrely, this was not the case in the main departure lounge airside, with only about 25% of people, presumably voluntarily, wearing them. (As an aside, we pitied those who were going on a fly-cruise to Barbados: they had been compelled to be at the airport no less than five hours before departure, mainly because they had to undergo an in-airport CoViD test.) By the time we were at the gate and boarding the aircraft, back on went the masks at the demand of a yellow-jacketed functionary.
On the GB-registered TUI aircraft it was announced that masks had to be worn “as a condition of carriage, and regardless of vaccination status”, thereby showing that this is a decision by the operator, irrespective of any government guidelines. The comment about “vaccination status” was completely illogical, as we would never have been able to have completed the Spanish locator forms without having been triple-vaccinated, and the production of these had been required as part of the check-in process. The announcer droned on about the known symptoms of Covid and how important it was to notify a member of the cabin crew if any symptoms developed during the flight. The announcement even included a prohibition against “lying on the cabin floor” – one wonders what sort of passengers TUI are used to carrying – as well as the now-routine falsehood about smoke detectors being fitted in the toilets “for your safety”. The smoke detectors are nothing to do with safety, they are there to ensure the no smoking rule is observed. Don’t get me wrong; I personally support the smoking ban. Just don’t treat adults like five year-olds. However, once the cabin service was in operation, one can make a Bucks Fizz and a packet of Pringles last quite a long time: eating and drinking without the mask was permitted, and not excessively policed. The good news, from an economic viewpoint, if not from that of a passenger, was that the aircraft was nearly 100% full, with only about 10 unoccupied seats out of 189. This compares with our trip to Portugal in September, when, in a similar configuration 737-800, well over half the seats were unoccupied.
In Tenerife, the mask mandate was mixed. We had viewed a website that stated that in Spain masks were required outdoors as well as inside. This, we are glad to say, was not the case. In the street, probably at least three-quarters of the population were not wearing masks; whereas in shops, everyone was. Quite obviously, the Spanish variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is intelligent enough to know where to strike. The hotel reception staff took exception to a bandanna-type face covering, which had been quite acceptable at our GP surgery in the U.K. the day before, because it wasn’t an “official” mask. The website had further stated that so-called “Vaccination Certificates” would be needed before entering a bar or restaurant, and indeed most establishments did have a notice displayed on the subject. However, in the resort, in 11 days of eating and drinking out, we were never once asked to demonstrate our vaccination status. The staff just seemed genuinely pleased to see customers and had no objection to shaking hands, or even exchanging hugs, with their regulars.
But the most bizarre of all the Covid-scare illogicalities, when dining, was the routine of distributing the table napkins with tongs, but the cutlery place settings were laid out by hand! Odd, or what?